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Graduating in Four Years

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Hey Guys,

 

Has anyone here attempted / suceeded / is planning on trying to get in and out of a chemistry PhD program in four years? If so, what are your thoughts on this? Any advice from people who tried to? Is it worth the attempt?

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I don't know if you can "Try" it. It seems like a lot of it is out of your hands. For example, by luck/genius are your experiments successful quickly? Does your adviser have you on a project that can be completed quickly? etc.

 

Additionally, it is highly dependent on the subfield that you specialize in. For example, it is not uncommon for computational/theoretical chemists to finish in 4 years. Conversely, a synthetic chemist may have a longer stay.

 

Long story short, it'd be great to finish in 4 years. I would imagine, though, that much of that decision is out of your hands not merely effort based. While I'm sure some people have to stay longer because laziness creeps in and they don't work in a timely manner at all times, I would imagine in most circumstances it is out of your hands.

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I worked with someone who finished in ~4 years. She worked very very hard (up to 40 reactions at a time, each set one after another). But as mentioned above, part of it was luck that any of those reactions worked. 

 

Also some experiments aren't even like this. Many physical chemistry experiments, for example, involve building an instrument that no one has built before with no guarantee that it'll even do what you hoped it would do!

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Hey Guys,

 

Has anyone here attempted / suceeded / is planning on trying to get in and out of a chemistry PhD program in four years? If so, what are your thoughts on this? Any advice from people who tried to? Is it worth the attempt?

 

It's up to your research progression, number of *published* publications, not manuscript in preparation, thesis committee, research advisor and luck.

Edited by Quantum Buckyball

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A person who used to work in my lab graduated in four years and had two kids during her PhD. I think she probably needed more than luck to pull that off but I'm sure it came into play. Two kids, man.

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I knew a prof. who did it - her research was synthetic methodology. She told me there are things that are out of your control (the experiments), but there are things you do have (how long you spend working). At her school, she spent 7 days a week, full days in lab. 

Edited by alkylholic

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I knew a prof. who did it - her research was synthetic methodology. She told me there are things that are out of your control (the experiments), but there are things you do have (how long you spend working). At her school, she spent 7 days a week, full days in lab. 

 

True that, but I don't think there are any major advantages for graduating in 4 years though, unless the end goal is to go into a completely different field afterward, aka med school  :rolleyes:.

 

The job market isn't looking too good for new chemists with a PhD, a lot of private sectors are only willing to hire people with a BS, MS or high school diploma.

Edited by Quantum Buckyball

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True that, but I don't think there are any major advantages for graduating in 4 years though, unless the end goal is to go into a completely different field afterward, aka med school  :rolleyes:.

 

The job market isn't looking too good for new chemists with a PhD, a lot of private sectors are only willing to hire people with a BS, MS or high school diploma.

To each their own. As someone who finished their BS in 3 years, I would like to finish the PhD program in 4 years for the sake of getting to my goals in academia quicker. I wouldn't sacrifice quality for quantity (the years spent) though. My mind might change when I'm actually there, but for now that's the upside that comes to mind.  

Edited by alkylholic

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I don't think putting a time goal is a reasonable thing to do. A lot of the things that happen will be out of your control and you might be setting yourself up for disappoint and subsequent lowered motivation if you put a hard timeline on graduating. Getting through it as quickly as you can (provided you get the experience and education needed) is good, but I think maintaining a good life/work balance and mindset is more important than just destroying yourself to finish one year quicker.

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To each their own. As someone who finished their BS in 3 years, I would like to finish the PhD program in 4 years for the sake of getting to my goals in academia quicker. I wouldn't sacrifice quality for quantity (the years spent) though. My mind might change when I'm actually there, but for now that's the upside that comes to mind.  

 

You might think you have a say in this but you really don't. The PI and the department pay you to go to grad school, and not the other way around like undergrad. All graduate students are replaceable. 

 

Make sure you talk to some senior grad students during visitation weekends.

Edited by Quantum Buckyball

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You might think you have a say in this but you really don't. The PI and the department pay you to go to grad school, and not the other way around like undergrad. All graduate students are replaceable. 

 

Make sure you talk to some senior grad students during visitation weekends.

I'm aware of that and I didn't compare how grad school and undergrad work, I was just saying it would be nice to finish early. 

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You might think you have a say in this but you really don't. The PI and the department pay you to go to grad school, and not the other way around like undergrad. All graduate students are replaceable. 

 

Make sure you talk to some senior grad students during visitation weekends.

 

This is true. One of my professors was ready to graduate in 3.5 years but they made her stay. I don't know if she was just bragging about herself but it makes sense. Especially if you're in a lab where the professor wants to continue the project and needs you to stick around to hand it off to someone new.

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super rare with young faculty. their career depends on the blood, sweat, and tears of their students and why the hell would they let their best workers go when they're at the peak of production??? 

 

an older PI might give less of a shit.

 

i'd venture to say that the majority of folks who leave after 4 years do so with a Masters... and that is not really where you wanna be

 

final thought: if you are entering grad school with even the smallest shred of expectation/hope that you'll be a PhD in four years - DO NOT GO TO GRAD SCHOOL!

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I spoke to one of my professor's about this topic today, as he graduated from Princeton with a PhD in 4 years. Here's what he had to say:

"7 cubed (7^3). If you want to graduate in 4 years, remember 7 cubed. That means for 7 days a week you work from 7 am to 7 pm."

May the odds be ever in your favor, OP.

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I had a supervisor who did it in three, but that was a few decades ago. He also did aboslutely nothing else but work on his research, so that factors into it.

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To each their own. As someone who finished their BS in 3 years, I would like to finish the PhD program in 4 years for the sake of getting to my goals in academia quicker. I wouldn't sacrifice quality for quantity (the years spent) though. My mind might change when I'm actually there, but for now that's the upside that comes to mind.  

 

I don't really understand the logic here. If your goal is research then you will be persuing your goals during your phd as well. I also graduated early form college but like others mentioned, grad school is different because I wont be taking out loans so I dont need to rush it to save money.

 

I am so in love my research projects that I never wish that time would speed up and let me move on the next stage. I have had that feeling while not pursing my passions but when I realllllly love something, like I love working on my projects, I wish that it would slow down and let me savor it longer. If you don't love it enough to let it take 5-6 years and just enjoy it then I would say that it probably isnt the perfect field for you.

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I don't really understand the logic here. If your goal is research then you will be persuing your goals during your phd as well. I also graduated early form college but like others mentioned, grad school is different because I wont be taking out loans so I dont need to rush it to save money.

 

I am so in love my research projects that I never wish that time would speed up and let me move on the next stage. I have had that feeling while not pursing my passions but when I realllllly love something, like I love working on my projects, I wish that it would slow down and let me savor it longer. If you don't love it enough to let it take 5-6 years and just enjoy it then I would say that it probably isnt the perfect field for you.

At some point I would like to be the one in charge and not merely a student. It's not a matter of passion or money, it's about time, something you don't get back. I'd be fine finishing in the standard 5 years, but I have no interest in being a 7th year grad student that isn't going anywhere. Again, each their own.  

Edited by alkylholic

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grad school is NOTHING like undergrad. there is very little structure. it's not a list of successive milestones that much be reached. you must independently investigate a problem. and if mother nature isn't having it, then you're SOL. that 7 cubed shit is cute but if you work for two years on a dead end project, then you're still at square one two years in. 

 

get over yourself. leave your ego at the door, and focus on solving the task at hand (i.e. your project). the smartest people don't always finish first. dumb people might get lucky. there is very little that you can control. you may be able to control your schedule but that still guarantees NOTHING.

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ftr, i work in a lab where the expectation is roughly a 70 hour work week. there are some people who work less than that, and some who work more. they will all likely graduate in roughly 5-5.5 years. if you want to be a PI, you should be more concerned with the quality of your thesis, and not how quickly you got out.

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Five to 5.5 years is more realistic (although there are some sub-fields that can get their students out in 4-4.5). Remember that the PhD is training you for your future research career (in academia or industry) and you want to be well-trained! The publications and connections you make during grad school are what will affect your job prospects afterwards, not the length of time you finish your PhD in. 

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